An At-Home Tool To Prevent And Help Alleviate Chronic Pain

by ​Ashley Sayaloune // January - February - March 2022

There are many ideas regarding what yoga is and isn’t, and whether or not it is accessible to everyone. It isn’t just a meditative practice or a physical exercise. Yoga is the very personalized practice of building an awareness of how the body functions on an internal level and behaves in movement. It is the study and cultivated connection between mind and movement that makes it unique to other movement practices.

This very intentional practice has been revered throughout history for its therapeutic benefits. It has helped people with chronic illnesses and disease for decades. More so in the last century, yoga has become more of a fitness exercise rather than a method to showcase one’s flexibility. Deep backbends are not necessary to master the practice or reap its benefits. Practicing yoga, even at its most basic level, can be the most rewarding in terms of creating a general sense of well-being.

For starters, yoga begins with a very fundamental tool we already have – our breath. Pain analysts have found that becoming breath conscious and using breath to calm the nervous system can have an immediate effect on stress and pain levels. Chronic pain can lead to stress, and stress can lead to chronic discomfort in the body – thus, a vicious cycle ensues. Conscious and purposeful breathing exercises can be the gateway to feeling more present in the moment and in the body, halting the body’s uncomfortable responses to stressors and pain triggers.

Many stresses and conditions can manifest in our bodies in ways that cause us to feel stiff, achy, and fatigued. This can be due to the fact that we may move less when we feel chronic fatigue and the inactivity produces stiffness and pain. It can be difficult to find the will to move and become active when it is painful, which can lead to a fear of movement. The result is less activity once again. In either scenario, less movement slows us down at an organic level and can keep us from feeling like we’re living to our fullest capacity.

Beginning a movement practice or exercise program with the intention of improving quality of life can feel as intimidating as it does inspiring. To ensure that it is safe and effective, start by observing current physical activity levels and recurring symptoms. Take notes when there is discomfort and determine if it might be connected to activity, inactivity, or other factors. This can be a great way to track your progress. When making more activity a part of your routine, start small with short, gentle classes that build slowly. They should be easily approachable and appropriate to practice at home. If too much activity, or symptoms of wear and tear are becoming an issue, it might be time to address movement with a more supportive mindset, with alternatives that can prevent injury.

Yoga is a great practice to increase movement and restore the body in a way that can be accessible to everyone. The practitioner can move at their own pace, using support of things at home to become aware of position, sensation, breath, and their effects. Depending on targeted areas of discomfort, poses can be sequenced in a way that offers the most relief through stretching specific muscles and mobilizing joint areas. Yoga is a very progressive movement practice that can be challenging in unique ways to build strength that supports day-to-day activities and beyond.

With regular practice and a knowledgeable guide, pain relief, injury prevention, and a more active lifestyle can be a very attainable reality for any who choose to pursue it.

​Ashley Sayaloune

The founder and educator of Modified Movement in Wake Forest, offering private in-person and Zoom yoga and exercise instruction and lessons for those living with chronic conditions.